Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Day is Long but the Years are Short

Gretchin Rubin of the Happiness Project often quotes the line "the day is long but the years are short."  This summer I am experiencing an acute and chronic case of time-speed vertigo.   This is the summer when Elliot turns nine.  NINE. YEARS. OLD.  Which means that nearly a decade has passed since he has been with me.  The exponential growth is showing no sign of slowing.   In fact, Elliot's growth and development seems as swift as  a speeding train.

This weekend, we faced the big job of organizing and packing away toys.  Was it a coincidence that we ended up with nine boxes?  One box of toys for each year.  Each box was sorted by name, marking the journey of his little boy-hood.  One for animals, a big box for train sets, one for Matchbox cars and tracks, one labeled action figures, one for Transformers and one for Star Wars, one for toy weapons and armor, a box of wood blocks and a box of random parts.  All will be saved and made accessible if he decides to reclaim those hours of imaginary pretend.  The Legos have survived our packing spree.  Earlier this year, we decided to make peace with Elliot's plastic brick building obsession.  He now has a special Lego building room that we created by converting two connecting closets into a narrow room.  It even has a window!

I usually do not enter this space.  My feet thank me.

This does not mean that my son has completely given up on imaginary play.  His imagination is thriving, but the materials and tools have changed.  Lately Elliot is becoming more of a builder, a maker, a crafter and a creator.  We are in the process of becoming a more project-based home school.  The current project is three dimensional paper Minecraft world which has held his attention for weeks.  We set up our ping-pong table, covered it in plain paper, then printed out patterns to create folded figures and cubes.

 Overlapping that project is Elliot's Ninja Art, which is steadily growing.  In addition, we are also preparing for the annual birthday party, which will be a sleep-over with an outdoor movie and campfire.  This year, I thought we might skip the party and take one friend and visit the water park.  But when Elliot had no cavities at the dentist for the FIRST TIME EVER, we decided that a celebration was well deserved.  Note to self: brush, floss, rinse. Daily.  Then you won't have the shame of tooth decay to report to your son.

Parents of the party-goers will probably kill me, but I'm working on handmade toys for the goodie bags. This is because I despise the plastic garbage found at Walmart and Party City.  Inside each bag, the children will discover little bows with q-tip arrows to play with in Elliot's three dimensional Minecraft world.  I know some of our homeschooling friends will love those!  Younger children will receive a different prize that is not so controversial (toy weapons! scandalous!) or as challenging to little fingers.

The quiver fits around the arm or wrist, but Elliot likes to wear his up high on his shoulder.  They are inspired by the Leaf Men from the movie Epic.  These little bows kept Elliot busy for hours.  Sometimes he was able to shoot the q-tips as far as 8 feet.  During the party, they will be used only at designated target areas. Otherwise they will be required to return their prizes.

One of the games we are planning is capture the flag. Are you sensing a warrior-like theme going on here? From this pacifist mother?  Conflict resolution has been a years-long conversation in our household.  I am confident that Elliot understands the difference between real war and imaginary, pretend play.  I have come to embrace his boy-child desire for action and conflict role play as a part of normal childhood development.  This acceptance places me in an uncomfortable position as a member of a Quaker meeting.  But the dilemma has passed. I have to honestly admit that my high idealism makes me a hypocrite.  While I claim to be a pacifist, my husband argues that I am most certainly not.  Perhaps this is because he is often the recipient of my anger and frustration, my stubborn, persistent drive to stand for myself when no one else will.  It's true that I love kindness, that I embrace compassion, that I strive for love over hate.  But in reality, I'm probably pretty defensive when I feel attacked.

  So, march on, childhood, in all it's imaginative forms!  We've collected a huge supply of cardboard boxes for each team to build their "bunkers" and "jails."  So along with the bows and little q-tip arrows, each child will receive a capture the flag kit, which will have arm bands for team colors and flags.  Each child will also receive a paper sack with s'mores ingredients.   So far we are attempting to keep prizes and games friendly to the environment and to the wallet.  We'll see how that works out in reality!

In between the rush of activity, we have been enjoying our evening meals on the back porch.  Usually the afternoon storms roll in just before dinner, giving us cooling breezes from the sluggish humidity.

How is your summer speeding along?  Sometimes the heat here makes me wistful for times when I wore a scarf in winter, with the ice crystals clinging to the yarn, and that moist scent of winter air, filtered by that handmade, warming wrap.

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